More on Brain Integration
I continue diving into the book, The Whole-Brain Child, and now we are looking at brain integration. My last post, linked below, states, “Integration takes the distinct parts of your brain and helps them work together as a whole.” When you or your child are overwhelmed, or your emotions begin to take over (chaos) completely, you are not in a state of integration. You are in a state of dis-integration. That is not where you want to be.
It is easy to find yourself in the swirl of dis-integration. I can calm down and reflect on why I’m reacting the way I am, but in the end, you have to work in full brain integration mode. You must not be living and responding from the “downstairs” part of your brain.
Types of Integration
First, you have the “horizontally integrated” type. This type taps into your left brain logic which works well with the right brain emotion. Also, you want to be “vertically integrated.” Doing this allows your upstairs brain to work well with your downstairs brain. The upstairs part of your brain helps you think about your actions. The downstairs portion of your brain is about instinct, gut reactions, and survival. I can honestly say that I’ve been in survival mode for the last, I don’t know, 14 years or so.
There is good news, though. Your brain is malleable. Being malleable means, you can make new tracks. Your reactions don’t have to follow the ditches that you have so carefully constructed. You can veer off course and make new roads, new pathways. Your neurons can detour anywhere you want them to. Eventually, those old ditches full of trauma, bad reactions, and intense emotions begin to fill in. A new road permanently replaces them! Your brain can be in a constant state of road repair. Honestly, this is excellent news.
“When neurons fire together, they grow new connections between them. Over time, the connections that result from firing lead to ‘rewiring’ in the brain. Such inspiring news. It means that we aren’t held captive for the rest of our lives by how our brain works at the moment – we can rewire it to be healthier and happier.”
River of Well-Being
When our brains are well integrated, it is like we are sitting in a boat or on a raft, just floating down the river. The water is calm; the weather is perfect. You are at peace. When dis-integration occurs, the current can shift you to the left (chaos) or the right (rigidity).
Chaos is when you “feel out of control…confusion and turmoil rule the day.” So, you quickly try to get back in the center of the water but accidentally veer to the right side of your brain, rigidity—the opposite of chaos. “Rigidity is when you are imposing control on everything and everyone around you. You become completely unwilling to adapt, compromise, or negotiate.” In the end, one side lacks control, and the other is too much control, leading to a lack of flexibility and adaptability.
Recounting This Past Week
I can see that one child was living on the right side of his brain. Chaos ruled his world. This child was not living in that peaceful water spot.
On the other hand, I was utterly working from the left side of my brain. My raft was firmly in the smelly, reed-filled water of rigidity. I wanted to control the situation and have everyone back in the river’s center. It was my way or no way. There was no connection, no discussion, nothing. Neither of us was in that sweet spot of integration.
“If you see chaos and/or rigidity, you know someone is not in a state of integration. Likewise, when someone is in a state of integration, they demonstrate the qualities we associate with someone who is mentally and emotionally healthy: they are flexible, adaptive, stable, and able to understand themselves and the world around them.”
Ultimately, the fact that our brain is plastic and can change gives me hope. Yet, I struggle with staying in the middle of the lake, cruising along without a care. I veer onto both sides of the lake with great ease. By doing that, I’m risking the heart connection I desire with all my children and husband. I have got to figure out a way to recognize what I’m doing/saying and stop myself in my tracks. There has got to be a point where I can remember these issues. I want to be an ally for them instead of their enemy.
How do I do that? That is the question.